Das von der staatlichen russischen Nachrichtenagentur Sputnik veröffentlichte Bild zeigt russische Soldaten die in der Stadt im Norden der Krim auf einem Militärlastwagen sitzen. Russland hat am Donnerstag einen umfassenden Angriff auf die Ukraine gestartet und Städte und Stützpunkte mit Luftangriffen oder Granaten beschossen. +++ dpa-Bildfunk +++

The question keeps coming up: negotiate with Vladimir Putin? The longer the war lasts and the more people die, the more urgent it becomes. The answer from the NATO states plus Ukraine can only be: Yes, actually – but how?

Preferably with a kind of double resolution 2.0: the hand for peace is outstretched – but it can clench into a fist if it is disregarded. That would be a new quality, a much tougher reaction.

Arms deliveries are then one thing, the threat of a NATO deployment alongside Ukraine is the new element. A threat solely in the event that negotiations do not take place; but it still has to be meant seriously, otherwise it won’t have any effect. Not with Putin. As a reminder, “NATO Bombs the Serbs” was a headline many years ago.

Seriously meant: Negotiating ahead, no question. President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s approach to negotiations in March has not been followed up; probably also because initial military successes raised hopes of being able to defeat the Russians in the end.

But it doesn’t look like that, also because the Russians have changed their tactics. And yet, in the foreseeable future, the Kremlin ruler could be ready to be talked to beyond just the phone. Because the blood toll of his army is incredibly high, it is already weakening the morale of the teams and the “home front”.

Putin’s squad of soldiers is making difficult progress in Ukraine and in some places is making little progress. This is now causing falling approval rates among its population. The war of attrition is also clearly exhausting Russia, regardless of further economic sanctions. Decisive advantages on the battlefield are, it seems, currently unwinnable for either side.

Selenskyi’s March package deserves new attention. It contained three elements: first, a renunciation of NATO membership; second, the proposal to postpone the Crimea settlement for 15 years; and third, the offer to negotiate a special status for Donbas directly between the presidents. Perhaps it will be possible to come back to this in the future, combined with considerations of how NATO intends to position itself in its new partner states.

At the same time, a red line must be drawn that Putin must not cross. Whether it’s along the Dnipro River or wherever military strategists see fit given the course of the front line, if Russian troops crossed that line then… The NATO Air Force is definitely operational.